Sunday, June 27, 2004

Mix Tape - home

One of the only negative aspects of travelling as Abstractboy is doing is the painstaking wait for the night train. After 8pm when the attractions and shops are closed and there is only so long that one can make a beer last, a lot of time is killed waiting on benches, waiting for it to be 23:40. At times like this Abstractboy takes the opportunity to listen to some of the meticulously created mixtapes that he has compiled. As he writes this, he is listening to the one entitled Home. Being the would-be-dj that he is, he takes great pleasure and pride in creating a mood through compiled music - this one in particular does well at doing that. the tracklisting runs as:

Black Box Recorder - British Racing Green
My Vitriol - Grounded
The Thrills - Deckchairs and Cigarettes
Franz Ferdinand - Come on home
Razorlight - Dalston
the Smiths - This Charming Man
the Vines - Homesick
No Doubt - Home Now
Interpol - NYC
Idlewild - the Remote Part / Scottish Fiction
Black Box Recorder - Goodnight Kiss

Thoigh he isn't feeling particularly homesick, he is now nearing that 2-weeks-away-on-the-road-already-is-a-little-daunting-and-I'm-feeling-a-little-lost point. Or maybe the mix tape is just working too well. But it is rather odd not having a home or ajust somewhere in which to do nothing. And also, his hair is at ab abboying middle-stage where it is hard to style. Tomorrow is a new day, a new city, a new perspective, a new page.

posted by Robbie de Santos at 6/27/2004 09:46:00 am 0 comments

I got an agent in Köln

Düsseldorf was a slight (and thouroughly welcome) distraction from the Inter-rail backpackers' route through Europe - there was not a single backpack to be seen other than the oversized 4YOU bags on the backs of school children! Abstractboy and ben were staying at the world's best host's house - Abstractboy's mother's friend of 30 years - Lioba. From a selection of chocolates and sweets on their pillows to a delicious feast and washing / drying facilities, their short stay was an absolute treat. There usn't much to do in Düsseldorf compared to Berlin, so the time spent there was slower paced and relaxing, and finished aptly in the pretty suburb of Benrath in an Eiscafe, eating the famous German icecream delicacy of the SpaghettiEis - an ice cream dish that resembles spaghetti blognese, drenched in strawberry sauce (like tomato, geddit?) and with shavings of white chocolate (like parmesan, geddit?). Sad as it was to leave Lioba, Theresa and Marius, it was time for another city: Köln / Cologne.

Düsseldorf and Köln are arch rivals, so Abstractboy felt a tad dirty taking the S-Bahn to Köln after such a nice time in Düsseldorf, But Köln is quite different. As soon as you exit the Hauptbahnhof, the main tourist attraction greets you - the cathedral. Though ben had already climbed the 300 worn-down steps to the top of the tower, Abstractboy was insistant that they climbed to the top. It was rampacked with tourists, mainly German ones, but the odd set of Aussie backpackers had found their way there too, and it was rather trying and claustrophobic navigating the narrow two-way spiral staircases. The town centre was equally busy, what with it being a Saturday afternoon. It felt a lot more like a city than Düsseldorf, more bustle, more tourists, more shops. It also felt a little older, not in a pensioner-y way, but Abstractboy hardly saw anyone of the 18-24 age bracket that you might expect to see on a Saturday evening. Alas, the night train to Münich beckons! Tschüs!

posted by Robbie de Santos at 6/27/2004 09:17:00 am 0 comments

Friday, June 25, 2004

I love Berlin

Berlin was amazing. Usually Abstractboy would write an entry on the train before typing it up here, but this did not happen on the Berlin - Dusseldorf ICE train, so this is all a little unthoughtout, if you will.

Abstractboy and co had the preconception that Berlin was going to be a city with electroclash spilling out of every Imisshalle, out of every DDR block - they were hoping to see Peaches strolling around Prenzlaur Berg, share a Currywurst with Miss Kitten, go to the Film Museum with Chicks on Speed. However, it transpired fairly quickly that Berlin was a city in which one would have to really research to find out where the cool place to be is, as it seems to change more often than Peaches changes costumes in her stage show! In the clubbin' it part of their stay, the Abstractboy posse suffered from bad fortune - the football preoccupied most of the would-be clubbers, and miss-listings told them to turn up for clubs 2 hours later than they ought to have. Essentially, one needs to be in the know to make the most of Berlin's nightlife, although the football was a huge factor. And they did manage to consume a lot of rather nice cocktails. Which is good, of course!

Aside from that, Berlin did not disappoint in any way. Five nights and six days is really not enough time to do Berlin any justice, which really speaks for how much there is to do. You could spend that long just walking along the endless wide Allees at the Stalinist-esque architecture (Karl Marx Allee), or taking trips far out of town to see some more unusual buildings. The fantastic and fit yorkpete who joined Ben and Abstractboy in Berlin takes a great interest in Modernist architecture and made sure a visit to De Cabousier's(sp?etc) was payed, which was very interesting. And then there are all the stunning post-reunification buildings everywhere- there is just such a mixture of different styles, which is not too surprising considering Berlin´s very unique history.

Berlin also is home to some of the best street/flea markets ever. The Strasse des 27s Junis presented the opportunity for bartering and nice clothes. Both of which were indulged in. And there are a lot of very good second hand clothes boutiques. And lots of cake to be eaten...blah blah blah, Berlin is great. Abstractboy now has an even stronger desire than before to go there for his year abroad and will do pretty much anything to be sure of getting in. You have been warned.

posted by Robbie de Santos at 6/25/2004 06:45:00 pm 0 comments

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Initial impressions of Warsaw were soured by the fact it is home to the most incomprehensable and horrible station in the world. Warsaw Centralna is located underground with a mind boggling maze of fastfood outlets, single ticket offices and 70s visionary black and neon decor.

After the claustraphobia of Centralna, the wide streets of downtown Warsaw seemed like a huge contrast. which is probably because Warsaw is home to the widest streets known to Abstractboy. It was hard at first to get a feeling for Warsaw - it all seemed a bit mixed and mashed - buildings from all eras are inter-mangled - art deco towers next to 90s-post-USSR glass skyscrapers, next to rows and rows of asphalt monster apartment blocks. And then, of course, there is the quaint and well-kept old town, which is much more akin to the faery-tail-esque feel of Krakow. But Abstractboy soon realised that Warsaw was the real deal. There is this raw energy that rises above the smog form the Trabants and Ladas, a real cosmpopolitan and fast-paced atmosphere. Warsaw is commonly known as the Asphalt City, grey and cold. But there is definitely this charming asphalt embedded in the asphalt. It´s quite easy to fall in love with the imposing grey blocks that dominate the lower levels of the skyline. In a totally uncondescending way, it is exactly what Abstractboy wanted out of Poland- to see some remnants of the Soviet Union, but to see the changes made since its collapse. It is still laregly unimaginable what it must have been like living in such a time and in some respects Abstractboy wishes he had visited sooner after 1990 (although it is questionable how much a 6 year old would appreciate this!), but at least now he has an idea, a feel for what it must have been like.

The past is very visible in Warsaw - from the Jewish ghetto and various WWII cemetries, to the soviet commisioned concrete abstract statues and Warsaw´s survival is looked upon with pride. Though the old town and royal areas have a constant stream of school groups and coach parties, Wasraw isn´t dominated by tourists in the same way that Prague is. Warsaw is probablz Abstractboy´s favourite city on the trip so far (in Berlin now and this statement is now untrue!) because it reminds him of London - is it no city for beginners and is cool and edgy, whilst being fundamentally warm at the same time.

posted by Robbie de Santos at 6/22/2004 11:46:00 am 0 comments

Thursday, June 17, 2004

One thing that makes Abstractboy and Ben's inter-rail itenerary more interesting is the varied pace that it takes - with slow phases and quick, city-a-day spells. While it is exciting to see a new city every day, it leaves the problem of how best to do a city in such a short space of time. Clearly it is difficult to know any depth, so Abstractboy does his best to get a feel for a city by walking along every street, gaping in awe at every fine building (of which there are plenty) and eating only local specialities.

This worked well for Krakow, Poland's second largest city. Despite and initial failage in Abstractboy's almostperfect sense of direction that took them for an hour long detour, Abstractboy and Ben managed to see almost everything in Krakow's beautiful old town. It felt like a slightly more vibrant, exciting Vienna, and they managed to stumble on a very trnedy bar/restaurant to eat Peigo (regional pasta-like dish), but seemingly the aloof staff and clientelle were not appreciative of our custom. It felt like a verfremdungseffekt laced scene from Fassbinder's Angst Essen Seelen Auf , with stares and silence. there were a lot of stares in Krakow actually - people (mostly young) would stare at Abstractboy without embarresment, which was somewhat disconcerting - was it his red asics tiger shoes? his vidal sasson haircut? his blackrimmed glasses? the cut off denim shorts? Abstractboy failed to see anything extraordinary about his appearance and is still puzzled as to why he received so many stares. alsas, he is on the train to Warsaw now - we will see if the stares continue there!

posted by Robbie de Santos at 6/17/2004 03:00:00 pm 0 comments

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

There is something quite romantic about leaving a city by sunset and watching it melt away as you look out the window of your plush couchette (6 pound supplement, wholly worth it). This is Abstractboy's first overnight train journey and it's turning out rather nicely, despite his and ben's inter-rail passes being looked after by the guard with the promise of being returned in Krakow. The shiny dark wooden panels and maroon/burgundy upholstery echo the oriental express glamour of those Agatha Christie books that Abstractboy's mother would always laugh at him for reading. The majority of the occupants of the couchettes are occupied by a mixed array of wealthier toursits with less interesting stories to tell, but surely curious and peculiar enough for Abstractboy to write a trashy detective novel titled Murder on the Iron Express. Or something.

But anyway, enough of this fantasising. What Abstractboy really wants to do tonight is have sufficient sleep so to make the most of his and Ben's single day in Krakow. And to help execute this desire are sleeping pills (herbal) and some czeck beer.

Update: drinking beer is proving slightly difficult, or the opening thereof. Abstractboy tried opening it out the window to minimise the effects of beer that has been shakebn by a train but unforunately the beer sprayed inside the couchette. Woops.

posted by Robbie de Santos at 6/16/2004 07:27:00 am 0 comments

Abstractboy is now on his first last night in a place. Prague hsd been lovely, but short. It is so unusual to be in and feel for a new place, yet know at the same time that you will be thrust into another place again the next day. But the surreal and abnormal is perhaps the whole point of this experience. The theme of situe is one that Abstractboy often considers - how things are in and out of their situe, how people react, why people react, and why some things remain constat=nt, whatever or wherever their situation.

Prague has proven some interesting ideas, but let us not let these faux-sociological observations distract from the fact that Prague is a very interesting city. Abstractboy was not previously aware of Prague's position in the Art Nouveau movement. The influences are everywhere to be seen - twisted cast iron balconies, delicate pastel murals on buildings and of course - l'absinthe. Abstractboy and ben sampled some of the green fairy - spoon, sugar, matches and all! The Czech Republic is one of only five countries in the world where the potent Woodworm (hallucogenic) is legally allowed in it. Sadly, no such effects were experienced - although Abstractboy did feel rather detached and distant, as opposed to merely drunk.

Though Abstractboy doesn't want this whole trip to be an alcohol experiment, he is quite looking forwrd to trying honey vodka in Krakow (where he is typing this up).

posted by Robbie de Santos at 6/16/2004 07:15:00 am 2 comments

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Entry 1

Abstractboy has made it. He is now in Prague, Czech Republic, having endured an overnight stay at Stansted airport and a 6am flight on Easyjet. Needless to say that after a packed day, he is now rather tired and sitting in an over priced internet cafe.

Prague. Is. Amazing. It appears not to cease being aesthetically amazing, unlinke most old cities which inevitably have ugly buildings among all the beautiful and intricate old ones. The architecture throughout is breathtaking, ranging from domed roofed palaces to fantastic bridges and Spearmint Rhinos (!!!) by the riverside. The weather has been quite nice too - a few showers this afternoon, but mostly glorious sunshine.

Abstractboy has even been sampling the local cuisine already! It was dumplings, cabbage, pork, bohemian (like you?) garlic soup, and of course, Pilsner beer. How much did this full filling meal come to? Three of your English Pounds, yes indeed. It was so nice. And yes, that did include the beer, which was cheaper than having a soft drink!

Prague seems to be quite the tourist city at the moment - loads of German coach parties, English stag and hen parties and lots and lots and lots of Japanese checklist groups. It's quite understandable - this really is a great city from first impressions. And it's so cheap too (apart from this internet cafe)!

Abstractboy will hopefully update this again when he gets to Krakow on Wednesday.

posted by Robbie de Santos at 6/13/2004 06:34:00 pm 0 comments

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

We're going through changes

It's amazing. How did Kelly O manage to actually have a hit single? And at Christmas time too!? Amazing!

But really. There are more serious changes to come that will have a greater effect on the population at large. Abstractboydotblogspotdotcom is to become a TRAVELJOURNAL for 6 weeks only. Abstractboy is going travelling. Woohoo, etc. It's quite exciting really. He will be travelling with his amigo and future flatmate, Ben (do check out his travelblog too). Their itinerary is immense, packed full of cities, overnight train journeys, languages that neither of them can speak and many experiences that can never even be imagined by most people. It is certain to be a life changing experience in any case.

They will start in Stansted Airport, Essex on the night of 12th June, waiting for their 4.20am check in. And then straight to Prague avec Easyjet. The All Zones Inter-rail pass start on 15th June when the boys take the overnight train to Krakow, Poland. The full itinerary is as follows:

night train prague [czech republich] > krakow [poland]
accommodation dizzy daisy hostel
train krakow [poland] > warsaw [poland]
accommodation oki doki hostel
night train warsaw [poland] > berlin [germany]
accommodation claudius pension juncker
accommodation claudius pension juncker
accommodation claudius pension juncker
accommodation claudius pension juncker
accommodation claudius pension juncker
train berlin [germany] > duesseldorf [germany]
accommodation family friends
accommodation family friends
train duesseldorf [germany] > koeln [germany]
night train koeln [germany] > munich [germany]
accommodation jaeger's hotel
night train munich [germany] > vienna [austria]
accommodation wombats city hostel
accommodation wombats city hostel
train vienna [austria] > bratislava [slovakia]
accommodation gabriel's hostel
train bratislava [slovakia] > budapest [hungary]
accommodation dominik panzio hostel
accommodation dominik panzio hostel
accommodation dominik panzio hostel
night train budapest [hungary] > ljubljana [slovenia]
accommodation hostel celica
train ljubljana [slovenia] > zagreb [croatia]
very early morning train (leaves 0.12 am) zagreb [croatia] > belgrade

[serbia and montenegro]
accommodation hotel royal
night train belgrade [serbia and montenegro] > bucharest [romania]
accommodation villa 11 hostel
day and night train bucharest [romania] > istanbul [turkey]
accommodation paris hotel & hostel
accommodation paris hotel & hostel
accommodation paris hotel & hostel
end inter-rail pass
aeroplane istanbul [turkey] > athens [greece]
accommodation alkistis
accommodation alkistis
accommodation alkistis
accommodation alkistis
accommodation alkistis
aeroplane athens [greece] > london, luton [uk]

Which really is quite exciting. Abstractboy will be keeping a paperjournal to pass the long train journeys as well as listening to a selection of interesting and themed mixtapes. He will then transcribe his journal in various internet cafes and hostel computers. There is no way that this can't be interesting and Abstractboy intends to make the most of this very exciting opportunity for adventure.

And after that, Abstractboy moves into his new apartment in HollowayTufnell Park. How exciting!

posted by Robbie de Santos at 6/08/2004 10:20:00 pm 0 comments

Saturday, June 05, 2004

A Departure

This is (hopefully) The First Blog Entry On The Departure...Ever! "The Departure?", the readership of four asks. The Departure are a very new band. So new that you can still smell the sudocream on their fresh faces. Abstractboy saw them for the first time at the Mean Fiddler in support of the Killers. This was only their 20th gig and they only formed in January 2004. To be playing to 1000 people on your 20th gig is really quite something. and to play very well is something else!

Their sound is akin to that of New York's Radio 4 or Gang of Four with a twist of regional British accents like that of Brett Anderson from Suede, or something. But anyway, their music makes you want to dance like no other rock disco before. You can't help it. First it's the feet, then the bums and suddenly the whole body is moving. Angular guitar riffs, funky basslines and incendiary beats (and not a synthesiser in sight!) provide the basis for this thoroughly interesting Britsh band. They have a single "All Mapped Out" which comes out on 19th July. This is definitely worth buying, even if it just to ebay off at a later date - they have recently signed to Parlophone and will be certainly going places.

And goshgosh, they were certainly better than the other support act for the Killers; Surferosa are possibly the most annoying band that Abstractboy has ever seen. Worse than Gary Glitter, yes. The singer, Mariann, gave the performance of an over-eager, poor man's Gwen Stefani-Karen O clone, attempting to work the crowd as though it was a triumphant homecoming set. Which it clearly wasn't. She also knocked off Abstractboy's glasses. Bitch.

posted by Robbie de Santos at 6/05/2004 07:02:00 pm 0 comments

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